Desmond King honored, on a 'different level' this year

Chad Leistikow
Iowa's Desmond King celebrates after forcing a fourth down during the Hawkeyes' 10-6 win at Wisconsin on Saturday.

Five weeks into the season, 5-0 Iowa has hit for the cycle on the Big Ten Conference’s weekly football awards.

Junior cornerback Desmond King was named the league’s co-defensive player of the week Monday after he secured two interceptions in the Hawkeyes’ 10-6 win Saturday at then-No. 19 Wisconsin.

King has five interceptions for the season, just three short of tying Iowa's season record of eight co-held by Nile Kinnick (1939) and Lou King (1981), and eight for his career.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound native of Detroit has been a huge factor in helping the Hawkeyes achieve their first national ranking in five years (22nd by the AP, 23rd by the coaches). As Iowa’s primary return specialist, King is also averaging 18.7 yards per punt return and 22.5 on kickoffs. He has 29 tackles for the season, including a team-high 20 solos.

“For us to get better, I always talk about our best guys — our most experienced guys — have to play their best football. And he’s a great illustration of that,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said following Saturday’s win. “He played solid last year, but he’s clearly playing a little bit different level right now.

“(He’s) been real opportunistic with the picks, doing a good job in the return game. He’s playing hard in coverage and for the most part doing a good job on the perimeter runs.”

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Iowa ranks 19th in FBS in total defense (allowing 299.8 yards per game), 15th in scoring defense and 34th in pass-efficiency defense.

King shared the Big Ten weekly award with Wisconsin outside linebacker Joe Schobert, who took residency in Iowa’s backfield Saturday with eight tackles, five quarterback hurries, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

With King’s weekly win on defense, Iowa now has had a Big Ten honoree in all three categories this season — quarterback C.J. Beathard on offense after the Iowa State win, and placekicker Marshall Koehn on special teams after his 57-yard field goal beat Pittsburgh. The last time Iowa had a season sweep of Big Ten honors was in 2010, when Ricky Stanzi won on offense; Adrian Clayborn, Mike Daniels and Shaun Prater were honored on defense; and Paki O’Meara won on special teams.

For King, though, there are bigger accolades ahead as he remembered losing four of the last five games in 2014 to finish 7-6.

“I just know once November comes, that’s when everything gets done, and that’s when everything matters,” he said. “And that’s where you have to finish the season — that’s our goal as well. We didn’t finish off last year as good.”